Monday, February 23, 2009

What Mama Said

There's much to be said for optimism in times like these; end times? So some believe. Others, well, other folk think "things" will be better sometime tomorrow or further on a-piece. Make that many, if not, most folks. Optimistic types. The keep smilin' for not cryin' crowd. You know the type (Happy-Assed Americanus): Donut-larded, fed-fat-cheeked fiends of fetish consumerism or, judging by the size of 'em, are we talkin' cannibalism? eatin' poor bastards whole? Special dunkin' sauce with every slab of meat? 'Twould explain America's obesity problem. But, that's a subject best left to those whom contemplate such non-newsworthy drivel.

Which nudges me in the direction of topic for the day: Survival.

Who hasn't heard of those people assembled in their make-shift fortresses, having taken to hoarding, stock-piling water, canned goods and jerky, waiting out the End Days? Those people think the troubled times we live in warrant creating warehouses of foodstuffs to survive the coming [Fill in the blank_______________). Some think God is gonna smite the unholy lot of us. (Well, the nonbelievers for sure. Followed by the "other" believers. You know, the kinds with those weirdly named gods and goddesses. Yeah, that kind, them, those whom believe there are more than one God. Heathens from the one perspective. Saints from another. Demons from a third and on and on.) Others believe the Rapture is imminent; the Anti-Christ walks among us. Still others believe this economic downturn is the Be-All-And-End-All, one from which we do not recover. Others decry the nihilistic youth and their violent solutions to any/all perceived slights and what that forebodes for the future of our nation; nay, the world. No doubt there are racists among us that believe the End is nigh by virtue of having a black man in the White House. And, lest we forget the ubiquitous Jones' whom everyone in America hates for their one-upmanship even as Americans asymptotically vie to be one better than; a never-ending mission of futility (hence 70 percent of the American economy).

The obvious problem (aside from the delusional righteousness such adherents—in the first instance –possess) is that with such stockpiling, once the end comes, the first wave of ejectamenta (those humans laid off, slipped through the shredded safety net, the economic outcasts, the hungry dispossessed) will know where food's available. You may have loaded up on ammo and guns to safeguard your stockpile but once a hungry hoard seeks nourishment—a primary survival force –nothing will stop the scavenging. That's why the true survivor mode will entail keeping hidden, eyeing the herd, especially the fringes and when the infirm, the too-slow-of-foot, the down-and-outer goes down they'll be quickly devoured. Yes, cannibalism as survival tool. Get used to it and you'll thrive. Human meat? You are what you eat? Hmmm, something to ponder.

If conditions get so bad as that, deciding to survive via cannibalism is surely an example of unbounded optimism, wouldn't you say? I mean, who would want to live in such a world? To actually eat your neighbors to survive is to say, for the eater at least, tomorrow will dawn.

Of course, many people around the world believe "things" are getting worse even as they continue to express optimism. No mystery, really. If one can convince him/herself that "things" will in fact be better tomorrow, then happy days are a-foot. No need to worry as "things" are going to be better tomorrow. At least they'll get out of bed and prod themselves once again to run the rat race; to stay safe midst the herd. The fear in the air flares nostrils, pumps adrenaline, erases logic and empathy. The herd runs from everything (after all, terrorism is everywhere) so it runs in frenzied circles until it can run no more. And that, my friends, is a meat-eater's dream (not to mention an extremely optimistic mindset/scenario to find oneself in IF fattening up is your raison d'être).

Even President Clinton chimed in with the advice that Obama should be more upbeat in order to rally the people to get behind America's push for solvency.

"The sun will come out tomorrow…tomorrow…Bet your bottom dollar…" from Annie.

So, that's how we arrive dead-on topic for this entry. My mother being in her 80s, living in South Carolina, and being of a certain generation completely and utterly devoid of adaptability to modern electronic gadgetry yet recently getting hooked up for email, prompted me to send my brave mom copies of this blog. When we talked 10 or so days later she mentioned how she was so happy to receive the blogs and wanted me to know that she read them right away, proceeded into her bedroom, climbed under the covers and just now climbed back out again. "Jesus H., Steven…I understand you need to write the truth but, Christ Almighty, it's so depressing."

What mama said.

Not enough of us concentrate on the hard numbers of this economic crisis, the lost jobs, the stock market tumble, the financial meltdown. Instead we fear everything in general. Rah-rah optimism isn't what's needed at all. We need to calibrate the bubble's bursting impacts. We need to arm ourselves with data of the most convincing nature. We need to flood the marketplace of ideas with this fact—that America is being divvied up among a few elite –in the hope of creating a sea-change of evolutionary growth in people eager to make this world a better place for our children and their children's children. In other words, enough of the optimism. Unbridled optimism is what America has fueled itself on certainly since Reagan; and who can forget "W" telling us the best thing to do after 9/11 was to go out and shop. Blind optimism led to a financial frenzy whose downside is utterly evident and upon us. Now is not the time for more optimism. It is time for the hard work to begin, to address reality, analyze and devise solutions that will serve humanity as opposed to shareholders. How else could such a phenomenon be described but as pure optimism at work? Born of unending hope that lives in each and every human being on this planet. Why slime of ancestral tracks leading from one puddle of mere survival to another thriving pool finally leads to the beneficiaries of such evolution, us, as we are today.

Hope delivered us from the slime in the beginning. But can hope alone deliver us from the slime once again? Who said Walt Disney's dead? Every princess will find her prince? Every evil witch shall find her match in a Miss Goodness N. Light? We all should whistle while we work? Fairy Bells and Tinker Dust? Goofy the Tao to Pluto's Zen?

The treacle drips from such optimism—dare we call it American Can-doism –like sweet thick amber syrup, warmed by momma's breast milk, the teat that satisfies, suckle and "it all" melts away.

But, does it? Or does it keep requiring you to cull up those depleted reserves of optimism each and every time it is further depleted by breakdown in trust between government and the people, between employers and employees, between neighbors, between husband and wife, parent and children, a believer and his/her G(g)od(s). Every time Disneyland wavers, ripples, blinking from strain of maintaining illusions so we do not witness the Beagle Boys' with their Captains of Industry personas (unadulterated thuggery to extort untold wealth), we reach for our drug of choice: Optimism (right there on the shelf next to the Fuhgeddabouddit pills).

Worth noting is the fact that, while optimism is great for getting something started, reality is what measures success or failure. Sorry, Mama, but the reality currently applicable is clear: The big cats are out of sight, watching the herd, licking their chops with every new straggler losing pace. As more and more drift from the herd and are devoured whole, the herd will become thinned, leaner, meaner, more afraid.

The cats will get fatter. And it will be "morning in America" once again. Reagan will regain Patron Saint status and Milton Friedman will live in granite monuments to his genius. History will tell us how great a President George W. Bush had been.

Gone will be the stories of deprivation and humiliation; replaced as they will be, with fairy tales of optimism. The end days. Not with a whimper but with an all-consuming lie based upon blind optimism. For when the herd runs blind, the fatcats drool in anticipation of a steady diet.

And, for them, at least, there is nothing to fear.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dissing Helen

President Obama's first press conference given on 9 February 2009, was a mixed bag. On the positive side, he did touch on the need for the second half of the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program to contain transparency vis-à-vis which banks get the money, how much they receive and what they do with it. He did say this half of the financial bailout would contain money, some $48 billion, for home mortgage relief; a way to stop the toxic assets (credit default swaps a.k.a. mortgage-backed securities) fusillade being triggered by mortgage defaults. And, while still holding out hope that his show of "civility and rational argument" will eventually bring recalcitrant Republicans along the path of reason, he did scold them by saying, "When it comes to how we approach the issue of fiscal responsibility, again, it's a little hard for me to take criticism from folks about this recovery package after they've presided over a doubling of the national debt. I'm not sure they have a lot of credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility."

Kudos, Mr. President. Great job. But, as the questioning continued, Obama showed some serious flaws in his unthinking positions on terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Having already invoked Bush's "Axis of Evil" name-calling (a.k.a. Iran and North Korea and Afghanistan) in his Inaugural Address, he now stood before Americans and the world and demonstrated that we are endangered by his hard-line stances on two of the most harrowing threats we face.

And it became obvious by virtue of veteran UPI reporter Helen Thomas' questioning of the President.

Thomas: Mr. President, do you think that Pakistan and — are maintaining the safe havens in Afghanistan for these so-called terrorists? And, also, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?

Obama: ...we've got to work in a regional fashion to root out those safe havens. It's not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children…


Well, Mr. Holbrooke is there, and that's exactly why he's being sent there, because I think that we have to make sure that Pakistan is a stalwart ally with us in battling this terrorist threat. With respect to nuclear weapons, you know, I don't want to speculate. What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everybody will be in danger. And one of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally. I think that it's important for the United States, in concert with Russia, to lead the way on this. And, you know, I've mentioned this in conversations with the Russian president, Mr. Medvedev, to let him know that it is important for us to restart the — the conversations about how we can start reducing our nuclear arsenals in an effective way so that…


Obama: … so that we then have the standing to go to other countries and start stitching back together the nonproliferation treaties that, frankly, have been weakened over the last several years. OK.

Thomas: Why do you have to speculate on who has…


Obama: All right. Sam Stein, Huffington Post. Where's Sam? Here. Go ahead.

Oh, no he di'n't…Oh, snap! Yes, he did! In essence, President Obama avoided the two ton elephant in a VW Beetle: Israel. He refused to answer Helen Thomas' straight-forward question because to answer would be to acknowledge the four-thousand pound pachyderm. The (OFF MIC) and (CROSSTALK) references above were instances of the Grand Dame of the Washington Press Corps pressing the President for an answer. Obama flat refused to answer her.

Of course, no country in the world will now listen to America about nonproliferation of nuclear weapons when Israel has approximately 200 warheads with missile capability to launch and deliver said lethal payloads. Israel's nuclear program is wholly outside legal standards. Israel does not "officially" admit to what everyone knows is true and has never been a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel is a rogue state of such dimension that if any other nation in the world had done what Israel has, regarding their nuclear build up, the theft of nuclear fissionable material, open-air testing of nukes and then lying about their weapons of mass destruction, they would have been demonized as a terrorist state and perhaps even been attacked; much like the Iraq scenario engaged in by the Bush regime (Shock and Awe as retribution for WMDs).

Which brings us to Obama's assertion that his administration will fight terrorism with everything it has. Should Likud hard-liner Binyamin Netanyahu win the Israeli election, teaming up with protégé (and former Kahane Kach party member) ultra-nationalist leader Avigdor Lieberman's party (Yisrael Beiteinu) to form a government, we can be assured that Israel will launch an air raid against Iran's nuclear facilities thereby yet again destabilizing the region and setting off a huge burst of righteous outrage from most of the rest of the world.

How does allowing Israel to engage in terroristic actions against another sovereign nation that is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and which has allowed routine inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and therefore has every right to develop a peaceful nuclear program designed for civilian needs, defuse terrorism? How does Obama's assertion that the United States will do whatever it has to in order to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons sound to the world as he blatantly avoids Israel's nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems?

The hypocrisy is stunning.

On the other front, primarily Afghanistan, how does this speechifying square up with reality:

Obama: The bottom line though — and I just want to remember the American people, because this is going to be difficult — is this is a situation in which a region served as the base to launch an attack that killed 3,000 Americans.

And this past week, I met with families of those who were lost in 9/11, a reminder of the costs of allowing those safe havens to exist. My bottom line is that we cannot allow Al Qaeda to operate. We cannot have those safe havens in that region. And we're going to have to work both smartly and effectively, but with consistency in order to make sure that those safe havens don't exist.

I do not have yet a timetable for how long that's going to take. What I know is I'm not going to make — I'm not going to allow Al Qaeda or bin Laden to operate with impunity, planning attacks on the U.S. homeland.

Remember, folks…Al Qaeda public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden, himself stated unequivocally that Israel's occupation and usurpation of Palestine, Israel's lawless foray into Lebanon during 1982 murdering 20,000 civilians in the first days of unilateral bombardment (add now its Gazatrocity perpetrated on defenseless civilians) is the basis for Al Qaeda's vengeful actions. Unless and until the United States calls Israel to task, there will be a militant Islamic jihad against the West. Terroristic acts will continue unabated and a nuclear weapons race will accelerate. In effect, Obama's stances are continued "closed fist" approaches to the central issues of our time, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. In fact, it's almost as if the Israelis have Obama's ear as his stances are very likely to worsen the situation rather than help. Oh, that's right. Obama's closest aide, his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, Israeli citizen, pro-Zionist and Chicago School advocate for taking advantage of financial crises to further agendas (see: "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism") will lead Obama and, hence, the United States to do Israel's bidding at huge cost in American lives and American freedoms.

Mr. President, for the sake of America's future, stop listening to self-serving pro-Zionist viewpoints before it is too late for all of us. Bring change as promised to the discourse. Hold Israel to the same standards you demand of any other nation in the world. To do any less is to imperil this nation and the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bridges To Nowhere

President Obama campaigned on the premise of change, building on the Clinton theme of building bridges to cross the gap between ideologies of the Democratic and Republican parties, to bring America and Americans together. In his first attempt at bridge building— the President had homophobe Rick Warren give the Inaugural convocation, he appointed Republicans to his cabinet and team of advisors, he held conferences with Republican leaders in order to consider their views on the economic stimulus package, he compromised early and on significant issues, he arranged a cordial get-together after the vote in hopes of extending what he thought was the beginning of bipartisan governance Obama has built a bridge to nowhere as House Republicans voted unanimously against the economic stimulus package that everyone says is needed. The complaint from the Repubs is that it contains too much "pork" and not enough stimulus; that the cost is just too great to contemplate; not enough tax breaks for the business/wealth sector.

Pork? The Republican controlled Congress under President George W. Bush grilled more pig meat than there was BBQ sauce to cover it. Cost? The Republican Congress under President Bush spent a trillion dollar surplus and left the country its largest debt ever. Tax breaks? The Republican Congress under Bush gave more tax breaks to the wealthy than any prior Administration.

Welcome to Washington, Mr. President. You're a Superman fan. You should understand exactly where you are now: Bizarro World, where everything is upside down and turned around; where the People's representatives actually stand up in front of cameras that record their every utterance for posterity and unabashedly use creative rhetoric/semantics (lies) that would put a blush on the face of a Liar King; where those whose responsibility was to protect the People's democratic franchise decided to abrogate that trust and failed to regulate the greed-based deviousness that caused a massive, worldwide economic meltdown; where the People's representatives again and again sought to give more of the People's hard-earned money to those very few in the highest rarified income brackets without a single contract as to what that give-away would secure for the People.

Now, these same Republicans stand up and whine that the fix is worse than the "criminality" they aided and abetted. Of course, due to the monied status of those top echelon criminals and the fact that government cannot look into the books of private corporations, no one will ever be charged. An entire world will suffer because of an extremely few trough feeders yet the pigs won't be brought to slaughter. [Author's Note: I apologize to that "other white meat" porcine demographic for besmirching their name.]

What mainline media won't ever admit is this: Republicans are a joke! They have zero grasp of what needs to be done. Their understanding of issues is pathetically shallow; just ask any Repub to explain their stance on ANY issue and you'll hear clichés without any substance whatsoever. Go ahead, try it. Ask a question beyond the clichéd responses and you'll get sputtering repetition of the same clichés. Press for facts and you'll probably be called a "Liberal" and dismissed. Too harsh? Sarah Palin…'nuff said, right! Without clichés, what did she bring to the table? What grasp of issues did she/does she have? Don't forget, she's being hailed as one of the Repub's "best and brightest" which I don't doubt is true. Let's face it, Republicans are all about rationalizing their greed and their underhanded methods of gaining same. They wear the Stars and Bars on their sleeves, flaunt their patriotism and religion even as they do the devil's work of thieving, maiming and cheating. Then they have the audacity to lie about their acts of brutality to such an extent as to sanctify them, to make their lack of compassion for their victims a mark of altruism and lest we forget that Republican mantra of "more for me" at every turn via myriad tax deductions, payment in lieu of tax schemes and equipment depreciation write-offs, etc. etc. etc.!

I think it's about time that liberals begin to call a hog a hog, to call a liar a liar, to call a bankrupt ideology a bankrupt ideology and let it disintegrate into the dustbin of history where it belongs. From Intelligent Design to Entrepreneurial Risk Taking to Businessmen Know Best to God Blessing America, we have a long, long series of baseless mythology serving as rationalization for self-absorbed behaviors that are engaged in to further feather one's own nests at the expense of billions of human beings. Of course, none of this would be possible with an intelligent citizenry. Unfortunately, Americans by and large are as ignorant as the Republicans, hence the nearly 50 – 50 split in the vote with half the electorate pledging its allegiance to the Republican party as opposed to America and Americans. How else can one explain the success of dimwits like Hannity and Limbaugh, Coulter and Ingraham?

We saw President Obama sitting with VP Biden and Treasury Secretary Geithner chastising Wall Street/High Finance demanding these sectors act with more responsibility and accountability and transparency. Nice photo op. However, with a Democratic controlled Congress and a Democratic President, why waste time talking, pleading, wringing the hands? Simply pass legislation that will regulate the greed and harness the unbridled selfishness of that monied class. How about telling the Few that it's now time for the many to rise on that sea-swell of wealth having risen higher and higher with every succeeding President since Reagan with his "voodoo economics" and "trickle down" absurdity? Why not say enough?!

Because America is a nation with schizophrenic substrate: A Representative Democracy merged with Capitalism.

Those Few holding most assets and making the most money call the shots. Of course, in a democracy the People are supposed to be doing that. But, whenever government attempts to do well by the People, the Few put the kibosh on it; call it PORK. When government attempts to put the People first, the Few put the kibosh on it; call it TOO COSTLY. When government attempts to control the "private sector" the Few put a kibosh on it; call it Socialism and demand more TAX BREAKS.

With the above paragraph in mind, recall all those many times when the Few wanted more feed in the trough. They promised jobs would be the result. Yet once finished with their gluttonous frenzy the jobs never materialized. Full employment is defined as anything less than 5 percent unemployed. Anyone who has taken the time to investigate the employment issue will have discovered that the actual number of unemployed and underemployed is double to triple that percentage; these poor unfortunates are the waste inherent in a capitalist system. Full employment would bite into profit margins. Employment with benefits cut into the profit margin. Giving people a decent living wage cuts into the profit margin. As Capitalism has developed from reasonable rate of return on one's investment to annular what-the-market-will-bear increase in profits, more and more people are expected to work for less and less; less wages; less benefits.

As more and more people become jobless, less and less taxes are exacted thereby weakening government. As this business/financial crisis progresses, government's need to help becomes more dire even as the funding for helping becomes less due to revenues being curtailed. So, who controls the United States? Government is unwilling to flex its muscles for fear of alienating the monied class, those pulling the strings. The conventional caution is that trying to do too much for the People and the monied elites will object by pulling back their money and letting the shit hit the fan. But, isn't that what's happening now? Even as government has, since Reagan, "grabbed its ankles" for the capitalists again and again, even as these capitalists have made obscene amounts of profit, even as more and more money and well-being has been thieved from the People, we've arrived at this crisis.

The unspoken fallacy of American democracy is that capitalists operate in their own interests not America's interest. Government exists to benefit the monied class, to provide an educated workforce, infrastructure to advance capitalist agendas (increasing capital), using police powers to protect the Few's assets from the horde and military power to secure whatever raw materials are needed to further the capitalist's prime directive: Mo' money! America is first and foremost about capitalism, not democracy.

The bridge we need built is one extending from the People to democratic governance where Congress and Senate and President work to better serve the ideals inherent in the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (the words' meaning); not to serve elite interests at every turn (Founding Fathers' original intent). If Republicanism continues to be synonymous with Capitalism, then we do not need bipartisanship. Let Democrats take the reins of their majority and drive this nation towards true democracy guided by the light of long-held American principles of equality and fairness, seeking to better the nation, its people and the world.